New York Times columnist David Brooks and Washington Post deputy editorial page editor Ruth Marcus join John Yang to discuss the week in politics, including President Trump’s rhetoric on immigration policy and the federal judiciary, his denial of Saudi involvement in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and the upcoming U.S. Senate runoff in Mississippi.
Brooks warned one sign a state is decaying from democracy to authoritarianism is institutional power devolving to personal power.
"I don't to want get hysterical here, but if you look at the way regimes decay all across the world from democracy toward authoritarianism, this is a classic thing that happens in almost every case, where the institutional power gets devolved back into personal power, and you return toward the rule of the clan," Brooks said Friday on 'PBS NewsHour.'
DAVID BROOKS, NEW YORK TIMES: I would say what's interesting is what — they weren't arguing about a case. And if Justice Roberts responded about a decision, I think that would be out of bounds. It was just defending the idea of an independent judiciary. And so justices normally do that.
And I do think it's important to maintain the truth — at least the three-quarters truth — that there are no such thing as Obama judges and Bush judges. There are conservatives and liberals. And it's true the court, Supreme Court, votes more on party line than they used to, but it's still not totally true that they are political appointees.
They have — they do have some sense of independence. And most of the cases are not 5-4, are not strict Republican-Democratic cases. There are lots of different modes of argumentation that come into these things. And maintaining that in public seems to me tremendously important if we're going to respect decisions.
And if Trump wants to delegitimize the court by saying, oh, it's just Republican vs. Democrat, it's just like Congress, that really does undermine our trust, the credibility and the deference we should pay to judicial judgments.
JOHN YANG, PBS NEWSHOUR: The fact that he punched back against someone like John Roberts, who is not a liberal justice, is — does that threaten him with his base, with the Republicans?
No, I wouldn't think so.
It's of a piece, which is that the only kind of power he acknowledges his personal power, not institutional power. And the idea that the attorney general or a judge has some independent mandate to do a constitutional role, that's not really part of his mental vocabulary. And so it's all, are you loyal to me or are you not loyal to me?
And this, by the way, if you look at how — I don't to want get hysterical here, but if you look at the way regimes decay all across the world from democracy toward authoritarianism, this is a classic thing that happens in almost every case, where the institutional power gets devolved back into personal power, and you return toward the rule of the clan.